Another Year of Forgeries at SBL #AARSBL17

Another Year of Forgeries at SBL #AARSBL17 February 25, 2017

Malcolm Choat shared this call for papers on his Markers of Authenticity blog:

CfP: Panel on Forgeries at SBL Annual Meeting

Papers are invited for a panel on forgeries to be held at this year’s Society of Biblical Literature Meeting in Boston in November as part  of the ‘Papyrology and Early Christian Backgrounds’ program unit. The panel will feature papers by members of two international projects on forged ancient manuscripts, ‘The Lying Pen of Scribes’, and ‘Forging Antiquity’, and further papers are invited on topics related to the theme: these could be examinations of forged ancient manuscripts or narratives of forgery, discussions of the relationship between provenance and authenticity, or other related topics. The call for papers closes on 8th March 2017. To propose a paper in the panel, head to the SBL site; questions about the panel may be directed to Malcolm Choat.


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  • Gary

    I mention this only because text forgery, redaction, etc, in this post came up. And my mention of “Going Clear” in a recent, previous post. I was struck by the similarity of the situation from “Going Clear”. It seems to be a similar phenomenon in Scientology in more recent times.

    A possible case of redaction of sacred text, from 1950’s to 2017’s, reflecting the vast amount of money Scientology received from the current, more liberal, Hollywood crowd? My main point = if redaction can happen in 60 years for Hubbard texts, it certainly could be expected to happen between 0 and 360 AD for other texts. Especially if money was involved, or livelihoods (Bishops, maybe?)?

    A discussion between the author and a Scientology representative:

    “But hadn’t certain derogatory references to homosexuality found in some editions of Hubbard’s books been changed after his death?
    Davis agreed that was so, but he maintained that “the current editions are one-hundred-percent, absolutely fully verified as being according to what Mr. Hubbard wrote.” Davis said they were checked against Hubbard’s original dictation.
    “The extent to which the references to homosexuality have changed are because of mistaken dictation?” I asked.
    “No, because of the insertion, I guess, of somebody who was a bigot,” Davis replied. “The point is, it wasn’t Mr. Hubbard.”
    “Somebody put the material in those–”
    I can only imagine, Davis said, cutting me off.
    “Who would have done it?”
    “I have no idea.”
    “I don’t think it matters,” Davis said. “The point is that neither Mr. Hubbard not the church has any opinion on the subject of anyone’s sexual orientation…”
    “Someone inserted words that were not his into literature that was propagated under his name, and that’s been corrected now?” I asked, trying to be clear.
    “Yeah, I can only assume that’s what happened,” Davis said.”

    As a side note, I also find it fascinating that Scientology cosmology and some Gnostic cosmology seem to be, how would I say it? Interesting? Hubbard and other Science Fiction writers hung out together in their early days, including Asimov, Heinlein, L. Sprague de Camp. So Scientology seems to be a direct result of a Science Fiction author’s mindset. (Hubbard actually supposedly had an affair with Heinlein’s wife!)
    L. Sprague de Camp wrote to Heinlein about Hubbard, “How many girls is a man entitled to in one lifetime, anyway?”, de Camp fumed. “Maybe he should be reincarnated as a rabbit.”

  • I wonder if any of the papers will touch on forgeries that exist in the New Testament canon. Bart Ehrman seems to have opened the door to such a discussion.

    • It will be interesting to see what kinds of papers are proposed and which end up in the session. But I think it is important to point out that Bart Ehrman has done a lot to popularize what scholars have long talked about for a wider audience, and to advocate the use of “forgery” and not just terms like “pseudepigraphy.” But there is no sense whatsoever in which Ehrman opened a door in an academic context for this discussion. He has joined in the conversation, but it has been ongoing for a very long time, long before he or I were academics.

      • I know the topic of pseudepigraphy is by no means new, but doesn’t the argument that “forgery” is the correct delineation for NT epistles that were once labelled pseudepigraphy, change the academic conversation in significant ways?

        • How so?

          • Well, as that excellent scholar James McGrath once pointed out:

            “While Ehrman’s book will probably change few minds about the authenticity of a work if they have already looked into the matter in detail, regarding the question whether those which are pseudepigraphal were likely written with the intention to deceive, and whether the readers taken in by the claim to authorship would have resented being duped in this way, Ehrman’s answer in the affirmative is convincing, and I expect that this will mark the beginning of a sea change in the scholarly realm on this point.”


          • Touché! And well done remembering my own words better than I remember them myself! I think that many scholars who work in church-related contexts prefer to avoid terms with negative connotations, and often claim that writing in someone else’s name was not viewed negatively in the ancient world. And so on that particular point, I do think that Ehrman will manage to persuade at least some such religiously-connected academics.

          • Or at least cause some such religiously-connected academics a degree of consternation.

          • Mark

            I think your second thoughts above were better. The identification of the authentic letters of Paul must always have been combined with the judgment that the others are basically a falsification. This is of course a problem if you have a certain e.g evangelical conception of ‘scripture’ so maybe the advertising strategy of speaking of ‘forgery’ will have an effect on such people. In a way it seems like a personal thing where he feels cheated and betrayed by what everybody knew. It would surprising if there aren’t other rational relations that types of Christian can take to the text that don’t suffer this demoralization. He just wasn’t that kind. After all ‘christianity’ predates and can thus exist without any of these texts. This kind of thing is all over Hebrew scripture too, no? A lot of stuff in Isaiah wasn’t written by the principal author; its inclusion was fraud pure and simple but who really cares?